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PINES PLAZA LANES AND AETNA LIFE & CASUALTY COMPANY v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (08/07/81)

decided: August 7, 1981.

PINES PLAZA LANES AND AETNA LIFE & CASUALTY COMPANY, PETITIONERS
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, WORKMEN'S COMPENSATION APPEAL BOARD AND GUY A. YOUNG, RESPONDENTS



Appeal from the Order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board in case of Guy A. Young v. Pines Plaza Lanes, No. A-77823.

COUNSEL

Joseph F. Grochmal, Fried, Kane, Walters & Zuschlag, for petitioners.

Leonard A. DeJulio, for respondent, Guy A. Young.

Judges Mencer, Blatt and MacPhail, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Blatt. Judge MacPhail concurs in the result only.

Author: Blatt

[ 61 Pa. Commw. Page 140]

Pines Plaza Lanes (employer) appeals from an order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board (Board) affirming a referee's award of disability benefits to Guy A. Young (claimant).

The claimant was employed as the night manager at the employer's bowling lanes when, on the night of September 24, 1976, he was assaulted by four armed men after he had closed the bowling lanes as he was entering his car at an adjacent parking lot. The claimant fell to the ground, knocking out some of his teeth, and was kicked by one of the assailants. One also threatened to beat him with a baseball bat. At some point during the attack the claimant was fired upon but not hit by one of the assailants who had a shotgun. As a result of severe emotional trauma following this incident, the claimant says that he is now partially disabled and that he had been totally disabled from December 15, 1976 to December 22, 1976 during which time he was forced to enter a hospital for treatment. The referee awarded disability benefits, the Board affirmed that decision and the employer appeals here.

The employer's first contention is that the claimant's physician's testimony concerning the cause of the claimant's disability was equivocal as a matter of law and that it cannot support the referee's finding that the incident of September 24, 1976 caused the claimant's disability.

[ 61 Pa. Commw. Page 141]

It is well settled that, where no obvious causal relationship exists between the employee's injury and an alleged accident, unequivocal medical testimony is needed to establish the causal connection between the injury and the alleged cause, Linkiewicz v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board, 44 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 485, 403 A.2d 1364 (1979), and medical testimony which is less than positive and is based on possibilities is equivocal and is, therefore, legally incompetent. Ulmer v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board, 47 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 607, 408 A.2d 902 (1979).

The testimony of the claimant's physician, Dr. Robert Sutton, largely concerned the symptoms of the claimant's ailments rather than their cause. He testified, and the referee so found, that the claimant suffered from a severe emotional reaction which manifested itself as acute hypertension, neurosis and right hemiparesis, which is a partial paralysis of the right side caused by shock. As to the cause of the claimant's ailments, the testimony was as follows:

Q: Doctor, based upon your personal knowledge of [the claimant's] medical history, on your own examinations of him up to that point and based further upon reasonable medical certainty, did you feel that the symptoms exhibited by [the claimant] were related to the trauma on September 24, 1976?

A: Well, we did, to the point where we had him examined by a Dr. Charles, who is a psychologist from ...


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